The scriptures of one hand – Koan 77

No. 77. The scriptures of one hand

When Enkakuji temple was destroyed by fire in the seventh year of Oan (1374), the sutra repository and the library were both completely consumed, and the Buddhist and Confucian texts which Bukko the founder had brought from China were reduced to ashes. Priests of the Hachiman shrine came to

Enkakuji, concerned about the tragic loss of these T’ang and Sung dynasty texts.

Fumon, the 33rd master at Enkakuji, said to them:

None of the texts have been burnt.’

Then where are they?’ asked a priest doubtfully.

The teacher drew a circle, and said, ‘They are in here.’ The priests did not understand, and one of them said: ‘Would you show us the T’ang edition of the Maha-vairocana sutra?’

The Master held up one hand. The priests did not know what to make of it.

Another of them asked: ‘Will you show us the later translations of the Lotus sutra (i.e. not by Kumarajiva)?’ The Master held up one hand.

A priest asked: ‘Please show us the translation of the Sutra of the Brahma King’s Doubt.’ The teacher again held up one hand.

A Confucian scholar asked to see a copy of the Zen comments by the poet Sotoba (Su T’ung Po) and the Four Confucian Classics, and the Master again held up one hand.

Then the Ajari (teacher of the Shingon sect) Kojo said: ‘We came here concerned that the T’ang and Sung texts had been lost in the fire, but Your Reverence told us that they were not lost. But when some of us asked to see them, you held up your right hand. What is this supposed to mean?’

The Master said: ‘The covers got burnt, but the texts themselves are things to be grasped in the hand. I tried to show this — to those with eyes to see.’


  1. What is the real meaning of Fumon’s holding up his hand?

  2. Grasp 10,000 scrolls in the hand: bring the proof of it!

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